A source close to George Karl tells FOX Sports that the former Denver Nuggets head coach has yet to talk to anyone associated with the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies or New Jersey Nets but speculated that the Clippers might be the most likely fit.
The source, who stressed it’s too early in the process to make any hard proclamations about Karl’s next job, also described the odds he’d end up in Memphis as “a long shot.”
Karl and the Nuggets parted ways Thursday after disagreements between the reigning Coach of the Year and the team came to a head. Yahoo! Sports reported the issue centered on Karl receiving an extension with the team past the 2013-14 season.
Still, three other intriguing jobs are open – or will be once Lionel Hollins’ contract with Memphis expires at the end of the month — and Karl would be an interesting fit for each of them. The Clippers, Grizzlies and Nets are alluring in different ways, and Karl earned his coaching honor this year despite having a team ill-equipped for a deep postseason run. The Nuggets had no true stars and relied heavily on scoring points in transition – huge obstacles to postseason success. They were also the league’s third-youngest team. Karl’s 57-win stewardship of that group in the regular season was widely seen as a remarkable accomplishment.
The Clippers, especially if point guard Chris Paul chooses to re-sign with the team this summer, and the Grizzlies would be particularly appealing job openings because each seems ready-made for a championship-caliber season and features different but obvious paths to deep playoff runs.
Still, the source close to Karl told FOX Sports that Memphis could be an unlikely fit because the team seems unwilling to pay a premium for a premium coach. The Clippers and owner Donald Sterling, however, are ready to pony up big dollars for the right candidate, the source said.
But a person familiar with Memphis’ thinking refuted that notion.
“That’s not true,” the source said, stressing that Memphis recognizes the unique position the organization is in. The Grizzlies are coming off of a Western Conference finals appearance and returning a team they see as having a window right now to win an NBA championship.
“They’ll absolutely pay a premium for the right person,” the source said.
The source said Memphis is considering Karl and intrigued by the idea of bringing in someone offensive-minded for a team that already has a defensive identity but has failed to score points. But, the source said, there remains some hesitancy given the fact Karl has coached only one team past the first round of the playoffs in the past 11 years.
Karl, 62, is 1,131-756 in his 25 seasons as an NBA head coach. He was 423-257 in Denver in the regular season but just 21-38 in the playoffs.
"George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference," team president Josh Kroenke said in a statement released Thursday. "He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball, and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach."